Reporting from Les Cayes, Haiti
As the providers at HIC (i.e. the nurses) have become more comfortable with me and my abilities I’ve slowly begun to help teach the nursing students who are present during my shifts. This week I got to help a couple of the students do deliveries, which were rewarding experiences, though ones I’m not (yet) totally comfortable with. In many ways I still feel like a student myself—I graduated from nursing school in May 2012 and this is my first job practicing as a “real” (as opposed to “student”) midwife—and so it’s a bit odd for me to already be put in a teaching role. That said, I really do enjoy guiding the students and helping them grow more confident with and skilled in catching babies.
So I have moved temporarily for the week to the Mariine Maternity Nursing Home outside of Nyeri to work with Josephine Gikunja. I will go back to Samaria next week while Susan attends a training workshop. Susan has enlisted the services of a Medical Officer (Physicians’ Assistant) to work with me and help with translation.
First off, an update on the two abandoned babies: they were not there when I went to work after my three days off. I was told that the girl (who was very cute and term) had been adopted, while the boy (who was a premi, but seemed very healthy—though of course small—to me) had died.
My last three nights at the maternity were good, but really, really busy. I caught 13 babies (in 3 nights)—which even for our relatively high volume maternity is a good number of babies (since I wasn’t the only provider catching babies). Most of the deliveries were beautiful normal births, which was really nice.
I had the recent fortune to experience the hospitality of one of Susan’s close friends who lives down the “road” from Samaria clinic. Esther is a farmer and has about 3 acres of land of which she farms about 2 ½ acres. She started off as a secondary school teacher but returned to her family roots of farming. She is married to a secondary teacher and has three children.
Yesterday and today I participated in a training called “Helping Babies Breathe” (HBB). The training materials are produced by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and our training was put on by a number of American doctors who do HBB trainings all over the world. I was lucky enough to be able to also participate as a trainer in the training, which was a lot of fun. There were about 40 people at our training—mostly nurses, though there were also a couple of doctors (but sadly no midwives). I had 6 women (all nurses) within my small training group.
First off, Happy Thanksgiving. I have an incredibly blessed life and am thankful for many things—but most relevant to this post is the fact that I’m thankful for the Frist Global Health Leaders Program. Because of it, I have been given this amazing opportunity to come to Cayes and work at HIC. It has been—and I’m sure will continue to be—an incredible experience, and I am so grateful for the Program and for having been selected for it.
I have been with Susan for three weeks and have gotten a feel for how things work around here and the kinds of patients that come through the clinic. On Wednesday patients come in for vaccinations. Susan stores her vaccines at another facility because of lack of electricity and the cost of fuel to run a generator for the refrigerator. That has its costs as well since she has to pay transportation costs to go and retrieve the vaccines. Vaccines are provided free from the government and Susan charges a nominal fee for administering vaccines.
Most days (or I should say nights rather)—I forget I’m working in Haiti. We have normal, beautiful deliveries with happy, healthy moms and babies. I got to catch twins the other day (!!), and the first was breech—which was quite exciting/stressful for me, as breech babies typically are sectioned in the U.S. and so the breech delivery skill-set is a dying art. Sure we have the occasional loss of power, or we run out of gloves, but overall things at the maternity run in a manner pretty similar to how they would back in the U.S.
Haiti—or at least what I’ve seen of it—is a very religious country. Although religion in Haiti may make people think of Voodoo—which is certainly still practiced—I however, have seen it mainly in the Christian incarnation. A significant number of the buses and trucks, as well as the stores around Cayes have Christian Bible verses/words on them/names, and there are churches (of various denominations) all over the city. Women at the maternity often pray and sing through their labor/contractions, and many of the women—immediately after giving birth—say a prayer in thanks to Jesus. Two nights ago—at 3am—one of the laboring women started signing a song talking about “needing God”. Shortly after she started singing other people picked up the song and began to sing as well. For a good 5 minutes I’d say there were 15+ people singing this song (beautifully I might add), and then after the song faded they each started praying their own prayers. I seemed to be the only one who was astonished that everyone seemed to know the song and wanted to sing it, and that no one else thought it an inappropriate time (3am) to belt out a song and then start to pray loudly. I mention this story only because it was—for me—an incredibly unique experience, which gave me a better appreciation for the norms and beliefs of some (most, possibly) of my patients.

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